2 things it would be good to know about their big picture:
It would be good to know your students’ general educational goals.
It would also be good to know how your class relates to their goals.
Why would it be good to know these two things?
It would be good to know this for you to understand their motivation and for them to articulate their motivation. Sometimes students haven’t actually thought through why they are in your class.
To get them to start articulating this ask, Why do you need this class? How does it help you meet a goal?
It would also be good to know this so that you can use the information to encourage: â€œYou need this class because of X, so you can do this.â€
If someone has missed two classes, you could send an email reminding them about class and why they want to be in it. If you know, then you have a lever.
3 things that are good to know about their goals for your particular class:
What grade are they looking for?
Make sure you are clear that you aren’t going to give them a grade, they are going to earn it. But ask them what grade they plan on earning in your class. What’s their goal?
This can also increase your credibility when you discuss the fact that you know they are not majors and they’re not necessarily committed to an A in your class. –I still mention that it is easier to make a B when aiming for an A than when aiming for a B. I might miss an A and hit the B, but if I miss the B… Ouch.
What do they want to learn?
Your class is required for a reason. What is it that your class offers specifically that they want to learn? Give them a list of things that are very useful that you teach in your class.
For instance, in my class I teach them how to take exams. I tell them that when they get out of my class they can write any essay they will need to until graduate school. How many of them want to do well in their major courses? Well, they have to write for those.
How much are they committed to those grade and learning goals?
People are more likely to do something if they said they would. So ask them what level they are committing to.
Are they going to do the work required to meet their goals?
All you can do is ask them. Not all of them will do it, but it’s worth asking to get them to have to make some sort of commitment.